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Recovering After A Devastating House Fire

A local woman is hoping to raise money for a friend who has suffered an improbable streak of bad luck.

A few months ago, Jackie Rudd was coming out of the shower in her home on Lower Huntington Road when she noticed smoke seeping under the bathroom door.

She quickly darted out a nearby exit that led to her backyard, and before long, her entire home had been totally engulfed in flames.
Firefighters who arrived to battle the fire and insurance investigators believe that when Rudd opened that door, she may have created a back draft, fueling the fire with extra oxygen and causing it to spread more quickly.

That’s a theory Rudd believes is true, as well, as she recalls hearing several of her windows blow out and shatter not long after she got out of the house. “Flames shot 20 to 25 feet out of the windows,” she said, and in her kitchen, both her refrigerator and microwave were completely “blown out.”

Rudd was unable to save any of her possessions before escaping. “I just threw on a shirt and a pair of leggings and got out,” she said, “but I wasn’t able to get anything else out.”

The blaze burned for about 30 minutes before firefighters were able to extinguish it.

Rudd said the fire was so intense, it destroyed a new game room she had just installed for her 11-year-old son, Jace, and seeing the room after the blaze got her emotional.

“The room was completely melted down, even around the chair he normally sits in,” she said tearfully.

As for the cause of the fire? Investigators aren’t sure yet, and say they aren’t sure if they’ll ever be able to determine the origin, considering how little is left of the home, located at 3726 Lower Huntington Road.

The blaze left her house mostly uninhabitable, and also destroyed her attached garage, ruining her 2010 Buick Enclave, leaving Rudd without a home or transportation.

Luckily, Rudd’s cats escaped the blaze, but one of her kitties recently passed away not long after giving birth to a litter of four kittens.

On top of all her other trouble, Rudd said a friend recently offered to mow the lawn at the Lower Huntington Road home as a favor, but while he was mowing, his lawnmower caught fire.

“Like every day,” Rudd said wearily, “It’s something else.”

In addition, Rudd was forced to put her dog to sleep a couple months ago.

Rudd said one of the fire investigators even became emotional when he looked at the burned-out wreckage that was once her home.

“He grabbed me and gave me a big hug and said if I had waited another minute, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Rudd said the ordeal has been difficult to overcome. “It was scary stuff,” Rudd said, “I just stopped having nightmares about it last week.”
Currently, Rudd’s insurance is paying for her to stay at an Airbnb off Illinois Road.

Rudd owns a store named Acacia’s Journeys at 1930 Bluffton Road, a shop that sells crystals, jewelry, and other items on consignment. She said she’s owned that business for about two years.

To help Rudd through this rough patch, her best friend Stephanie Berkshire is hoping a couple of fund raisers will create some extra cash to help her friend.

Berkshire, a 40-year-old hypnotherapist from Decatur, is planning a fundraiser at the Bell Mansion on June 25 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. That event, located at 420 W. Wayne St., will feature ghost tours of the mansion, a silent auction, a raffle, and Vinatelli’s food truck, Berkshire said.

The other event Berkshire plans is a fundraiser at Pavilion No. 2 in Foster Park on July 7. That one will offer carnival games and prizes, as well as a foam party, and a food truck.

“I would like to raise $10,000 or more,” Berkshire said, “She’s my best friend for the last three years, and she really deserves this.”

She said it’s been difficult getting the word out about the fundraisers because there isn’t much cash to advertise. “So far,” Berkshire said, “we’ve only been able to advertise on Facebook, because we really don’t have the money to advertise anywhere else.”

Michael Morrissey

Michael Morrissey

Michael is a professional writer and journalist. He attended South Side High School and Northwestern University. He has written for newspapers in Michigan City, Indiana; Pekin, Illinois; and Bradenton, Florida. He also has written for and edited websites in Florida and San Francisco, California. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer